Transcript: Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Q&A on Operation Fast & Furious

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Operation Fast and Furious with Attorney General Eric Holder on Nov. 8, 2011

Transcript of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) Q&A:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. IMAGE SOURCE: Judiciary.Senate.gov

Sen. Sheldon White House (D-R.I.):

“Thank you, Chairman. Welcome, Attorney General Holder.

“I spent four years as the United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island. And while some time has gone by since then, my recollection is that there was a – I guess you call it – kind of a convention in the Department of Justice that a lot of people got to write memos that were nominally designated to the Attorney General. There was some value in that because it kind of made you feel good to be writing a memo to the Attorney General of the United States, and it was fairly widely accepted that that was a common practice. That was my recollection anyway. And the filtration of that flood emails and memoranda nominally designated for the Attorney General was filtered by the deputy attorney general in that office and then went actually through the Attorney General was kind of on what the deputy perceived to be a need-to-know basis for then-Attorney General [Janet] Reno. I’m wondering is my recollection correct? Does that remain the convention within the department that there’s a large number of emails that are nominally directed toward the Attorney General that’s a standard department practice that the Attorney General never actually sees?

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“That’s correct. There are a number of what I’ll call filters that exist so that we can respond in a timely fashion to things that are raised nominally to the attention of the Attorney General. You have assistant attorneys general who have subject matter responsibilities in a variety of areas. You have the deputy attorney general. We have an assistant attorney general for legislative affairs who responds to memos and things that come from members of the Hill. So a whole variety of things that will say ‘To Deputy Attorney General, To the Attorney General’ that neither of us would ultimately see.”

 

Sen. Sheldon White House (D-R.I.):

“Even though it appears to have created some misunderstanding in this particular matter, I would urge you not to depart from that. Because my recollection is that the senior staff and U.S. Attorney and others work very, very hard, and that the feeling when you’re preparing for a document that is going to the Attorney General of the United States and it’s an important one. And if that got shut off so that mail had to be sent to more junior officials in the department. Other than the confusion this has created, I think it’s a good thing for the 93 U.S. Attorneys and others to be able to write that memoranda with the feeling that this is going to the Attorney General, and I think it calls up a higher level of performance and public spiritedness. So I urge you to leave that in place even thought there’s been this misunderstanding.”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“Sure. I think one thing let me make clear. My staff as well as the staff at the deputy attorney general’s office reviews a large volume of this material, and some things that do say ‘To the Attorney General’ do get brought to my attention if they make the determination that it is something that needs to be brought to my attention as opposed to something that is more routine or something that can be handled at a lower level. I’ve got a fair amount of information that I have to look at. I have to stay up at night to try to keep up with them. It’s just not the things that were in the chart that Sen. [John] Cornyn had. Those things were not brought to my attention. My staff, I think, made the correct decision in that regard.”

 

Sen. Sheldon White House (D-R.I.):

“And that’s consistent with longstanding department practice.”

 

Attorney General Eric Holder: 

“Sure.”

###

 

Learn More: